Top German honour for Israeli lawyer provokes outrage

By John Rosenthal, August 6, 2009
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Germany has just awarded one of its highest honours, the “Federal Merit Cross, First Class”, to Israeli lawyer Felicia Langer. A former member of the Israeli Communist Party, Langer is known in Germany, above all, as a ferocious critic of Israel.

In 1990, she settled in Germany. By her own account, this was to protest against Israeli policies, specifically the “brutality and sophistication” with which “Israel was exploiting the Germans’ guilt”. In numerous statements she has called for war-crime trials against Israeli leaders, explained away Palestinian bombings as “suicidal desperation”, and said that Israelis were behaving like a “master race”.

Indeed, she regularly makes coy comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany.

Langer’s award has prompted incredulous reactions from Israel and the Central Council of Jews of Germany. Other Jewish recipients of the Merit Cross have threatened to return their awards if Langer’s is not rescinded.

Langer was presented with the award by Hubert Wicker, lieutenant governor of Baden-Württemberg. The state has insisted that Langer was honoured “for her humanitarian contributions, independently of political, ideological or religious motivations” and her “efforts to help persons in need regardless of nationality or religion”.

But the text of Wicker’s award speech clearly reveals that Langer was honoured not despite her anti-Israeli invective, but precisely because of it.

“For 23 years you fought against expropriations, the destruction of homes and deportations,” Wicker told Langer. “Your clients informed you about torture, forced confessions, deportations in violation of international law, and punishments resembling clan-liability such as the tearing down of suspects’ houses.”
Note the two references in quick succession to “deportations”: an idiom that clearly suggests that Israelis are guilty of “Nazi-like” crimes.

The reference to “punishments resembling clan-liability” [sippenhaftähnliche Bestrafungen] likewise carries a strong whiff of the Third Reich. “Sippenhaft” is the practice of punishing family members for an individual’s alleged crimes. The Nazis were notorious for employing this form of punishment.

The full text of Wicker’s speech has been published on the website of the pro-Palestinian German website Das Palästina Portal. The motto of the website is “Never Again — No One — Nowhere”. The implication is that it is now happening again: not in Europe, but in the Middle East and not to Jews, but to Palestinians.

In the vision of Das Palästina Portal, Felicia Langer and apparently the government of Baden-Württemberg, the Jews have become the perpetrators.

John Rosenthal writes on European politics for Policy Review magazine

    Last updated: 3:14pm, August 6 2009